by Kimberley Allen R.N.
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that is a chronic lifelong illness. Crohn’s disease affects our digestive system and though it is most commonly found in the small intestine it can affect any part of the digestive system from the mouth through to the anus. Crohn’s disease affects approximately 2 million people in the US and the number is rising. Men and women are equally affected. It can develop at any age, however it usually developes before age 30.
People of Eastern European Jewish descent have a greater risk of developing Crohn’s with caucasions following at a very close second though it can afeect any ethnic group. If you have a relative, especially someone in the immediate family with Crohn’s disease then you have a greater risk of also developing it. People that live in urban areas and cold climates are alos more likely to develop crohns disease.
Of the controllable risk factors cigarette smoking is the most important. Not ony does smoking increase your risk of developing Crohn’s disease it also tends to increase the severity of the disease it also tends to a greater risk for surgery.
The exact cause of Crohn’s disease continues to be researched. Many experts believe that there are a number of factors invoved including heredity and a combination of other factors including environmental and malfunctioning immune system.
The symptoms of Crohn’s disese varies depending on the area of the digestive system that is affected. They also vary in severity from mild to severe. The symptoms can develop slowly or appear suddenly without warning. Crohn’s disease can also have periods of remission. The most common symptom when the disease is active is diarrhea along with abdominal cramping and pain, and some people have difficulty with persistant vomiting. Due to inflammation in the intestines food passing through can cause bleeding so it’s possible there will be blood in your stool. These symptoms lead to weight loss as well as poor appetite. Should you notice that there are changes in your bowel habits that continue it’s time to call your Dr.
The most accurate test for diagnosing Crohn’s disease is a colonoscopy. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease so the treatment plan consists of goals to manage the disease and promote optimal level of functioning. First is to promote periods of remission and then to maintain them, followed by keeping the side effects of treatment to a minimum during relapses with the ultimate goal of improving and maintining maximum quality of life.
Treatment of active Crohn’s disease depends on the severity and location of the disease. There are a variety of guidelines that are
recommendedfor your Dr to follow in order to keep the side effects of treatment to a minimum. It’s important that when you discuss your treatment options and plan with your Dr that you are prepared to be an active participant. This means researching the disease and current treatments available. If you want to incorporate natural and alternative treatments with conventional treatments be prepared to discuss them, research them prior to your visit. It’s much easier to convince your Dr to incorporate alternative treatments into the treatment plan if he/she is comfortable that you are aware of and understand all the pro’s and con’s.
Prevention is better than treatment has always been my motto and though Crohn’s disease can’t be prevented research has shown that people that eat a healthy diet high in fiber and low in processed foods have less incidence of Crohn’s disease. It is important to note that while eating a high fiber diet may prevent crohns disease in healthy people it can aggravate symptoms in someone already suffering with Crohn’s.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.